Xavier hands Temple another tough loss

Posted: January 11, 2013

CINCINNATI - Last Sunday, Temple basketball players talked about showing toughness down the stretch during a close loss to sixth-ranked Kansas at vaunted Allen Fieldhouse.

Thursday night was a different story. There was no consolation in losing another close one in a tough venue.

The Owls were left questioning their decision-making and fortitude after a 57-52 loss to Xavier in their Atlantic 10 opener at Cintas Center.

Seniors Khalif Wyatt and Scootie Randall were critical of themselves as Temple's leading scorers combined for just five points in the second half.

"They were tougher than us down the stretch," said Wyatt, who finished with just five points, 11 below his season average. "We have some veteran guys, and to say they were tougher than us, it's definitely not acceptable."

The loss might have been particularly aggravating for Temple because it is the type of game the Owls believe they should win if they're going to contend for a second straight regular-season conference championship. Xavier (8-6, 1-0 A-10) is young and entered on a four-game losing streak, but Cintas Center remains a tough place for opponents.

The Owls (10-4, 0-1) haven't won here since 2005, having lost four straight at Cintas Center.

More pressing, Temple has another losing streak to try to overcome as it has dropped consecutive games for the first time this season.

"We need to regroup and get our act together," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said.

It looked as if Temple had things going its way early in the second half. The Owls went on a 9-0 run out of the locker room to take a 35-29 lead on Randall's layup with 17:38 remaining.

But that was Randall's only field goal in the second half, and he finished with 13 points. Meanwhile, Xavier countered with its own 9-0 run, taking a 38-35 lead on sophomore Justin Martin's long three-pointer with 14:42 left.

It was a struggle the rest of the way for Temple. Wyatt committed his third foul and went to the bench with 14:03 left. Soon after, the Owls fell into a scoring drought that lasted 5 minutes and 6 seconds.

Senior Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson's driving layup ended the lull with 8:19 remaining, cutting the deficit to 48-39. The Owls kept chiseling away, and Hollis-Jefferson's layup with 1:30 left cut the deficit to 54-52.

Down 55-52, Wyatt missed a three-pointer from the left corner in front of the Temple bench with 33 seconds remaining. As the ball bounced off the rim, Randall tapped it out to guard Will Cummings at the top of the key. He had a wide-open three-pointer, but instead tried to pass the ball inside and it was stolen by Jeff Robinson.

Randall missed a three-pointer from the right wing with 15 seconds missed. Dunphy said Randall rushed the shot, and he had wanted the Owls to take more time and run a play.

"We had our chances," Dunphy said. "We didn't do a very good job of taking advantage of those chances."

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